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Nairobi has an impressive restaurant scene but the street food scene is less defined than in places like Tokyo, Vietnam or Beijing. There’s definitely a better kerb-side food culture on the coast than in the capital. Having said that, here’s where to go in Nairobi to grab a quick bite—generally in the lower income areas, called estates.
The nightlife scene in Kenya comes alive from late on Thursday to Saturday night. A common place to find kebab vendors is on Electric Avenue—an area where you find most clubs and lounges in Westlands, Nairobi—and outside clubs in the Central Business District. Some have vegetables, while others offer spicy meat on skewers.
These are most common near butchers and local pubs in the estates. Mutura is a Kenyan sausage that is made with meat, spices and sometimes blood. It is roasted on a grill, with vendors preparing theirs in a variety of ways, to sell alongside bone soup, a favourite with many locals. The sausages are best enjoyed with some kachumbari (salsa).
Maize is a staple food in Kenya and before the maize dries completely on the cob while on the farm, it can be boiled or roasted on an open fire. It is best enjoyed with some lemon juice and pepper.
Fish vendors usually fry their stock in woks, on open fires and then sell to people. Most of the fish in the city comes from Lake Victoria. Enjoy on its own, or with some ugali or rice.
Smokies are a type of sausage that is roasted over a simple grill. You will find smokie sellers dotted all over the city and in the estates, often selling boiled eggs as well. The food is best enjoyed with salsa (kachumbari), tomato sauce and hot sauce.
In Kenya, makeshift outdoor eating joints are called kibandas. They often serve staples like githeri, ugali, chapatis and stews for people. You will find them near most areas around Nairobi, a few meters away from office complexes—they are an affordable option for locals and visitors on a tight budget.
This is roasted chicken and it’s best enjoyed with fries. You will find these being sold in estates, especially at weekends, which is handy, as kuku choma also happens to be a great hangover cure.
Kenyans love their potatoes. We find a way to put a twist to the potato and to make different snacks and street foods from it. Chips mwitu are fries that are made on the side of the road and are less expensive than normal restaurant fries. Bhajia and viazi karai both involve coating potatoes in differing mixtures of spiced batter before deep frying them.
Samosas are a favorite breakfast dish for many Kenyans and you’ll find an abundance of street vendors offering them. The coconut-flavored doughnuts that locals call mandazis are another popular way to start the day.